A witty catchphrase can set the tone of a presidential candidate’s campaign giving supporters something to chant as they rally behind their candidate and voters something to remember as they head to the polls. Win or lose, here are some of history’s most memorable presidential slogans that still resonate today.
Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!
The election of 1840 between William Henry Harrison and Martin Van Buren was the first national campaign to use advertising, such as banners, merchandise, slogans and songs to bolster a candidate’s image and reach voters. And, the effects of the more catchy campaign resulted in increased voter turnout and a political upset. Long considered the underdog, Harrison’s catchy slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!” resonated with voters. The slogan referred to Harrison’s status as a war hero during the 1811 Tecumseh’s War. Not only did Harrison lead the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, he led his running mate, John Tyler. Harrison won the election in a landslide, and his campaign went down in history as the first to use a catchy campaign slogan.
Jimmy Carter’s past as a peanut farmer seemed to define him early on during his bid for the White House in 1976. Carter, who faced lot of jokes and questions about his modest background, chose to face the issue head on with his “Not Just Peanuts” presidential campaign slogan, which he hoped would divert the voters’ attention from peanuts to his record as governor of Georgia.
Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?
The late 1970s were not good years for most Americans. The nation was experiencing low economic growth, high inflation and interest rates, spiking gas prices and sour international relations with the Soviet Union, which left voters questioning the direction of the current administration. Ronald Reagan, the Republican challenger in the 1980 election against incumbent Jimmy Carter, simply asked voters “Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?” in his iconic campaign slogan. Most American’s answered “no” and Reagan defeated Carter in a landslide.
Keep Cool with Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge’s successful bid for a second White House term in 1924 was supported by his campaign slogan that reinforced what voters liked about him during his first term: His calm, steady demeanor. “Keep Cool With Coolidge” clicked with voters and helped usher him to a second presidential term.
Don’t Swap Horses in the Middle of the Stream
Abraham Lincoln was president during the most divisive time in American history: The Civil War. With the war raging on, many initially felt Lincoln had little chance of winning the 1864 presidential race. However, as the campaign continued, Union victories soon started to mount and bolstered the Lincoln’s chances. With the end of the war looming, Lincoln’s re-election campaign wanted to encourage voters to stay-the-course with the campaign slogan “Don’t Swap Horses in the Middle of The Stream.” The slogan resonated with voters and Lincoln was re-elected to office. The Union eventually won the Civil War in Lincoln’s second term; later he oversaw the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal nationwide.
The economy was booming in the late 1920s, spurring candidate Herbert Hoover to create the slogan “A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage” to define his 1928 presidential campaign. With a promise to keep the good times rolling, voters rallied behind the Republican candidate and ushered him into the White House. However, the 1929 stock market crash sunk the economy and left Hoover’s campaign promise as empty as America’s pots and garages.
Think politics is a dirty game now? Consider the 1884 presidential election between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine. The election is most remembered in history for its notorious mudslinging and rampant accusations that were highlighted in the campaigns’ slogans. Cleveland’s campaign was marred by a paternity scandal, which incited the slogan “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” Coupled with his lack of campaigning, Cleveland seemed doomed, according to the polls. This was until Blaine got caught up in his own scandal just a week before the election. The democrats held office again after a 28-year wait, as Cleveland got elected. The Democrats’ answer to the popular election cycle chant became, “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!” It should be noted that Cleveland used his own clever slogan during his campaign to refer to his opponent’s alleged unethical business dealings within the railroad industry, “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar From the State of Maine.”
Dwight Eisenhower ran arguably the most iconic campaign slogan in political history during his 1952 White House bid, “I like Ike.” It was short, simple and easy for voters to remember when they headed to the polls. The republican World War II hero won the election in a landslide against his democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson.
Campaign slogans make elections memorable and give supporters a rally cry. Finding the right message is essential to crafting a witty campaign catchphrase.
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